PRESS RELEASE | ICAN

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Australia is gravely concerned with the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ final report recommending ratification of the proposed agreement to export Australian uranium to India, despite registering a litany of major non-proliferation, safety and oversight concerns.

Uranium export from AustraliaThe agreement would enable Australian uranium to directly or indirectly fuel the expansion of India’s nuclear arsenal, thus threatening regional and global peace and security. This is the first time the Australian Government intends to sell uranium to a country non-party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the world’s primary international instrument enforcing non-proliferation and disarmament. India is one of only four states – all nuclear-armed – not signed up to the NPT.

The Agreement contains paper-thin safeguards, and several standard provisions are conspicuously absent, for example the ‘right of return’ provision compelling the return of material if the Agreement is breached, and a provision requiring consent to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, the most sensitive stage of the nuclear fuel chain.

“It is disingenuous for the Committee to recommend ratification while simultaneously acknowledging the substantial deficiencies that must be addressed before the Agreement can be acted on,” said Associate Professor Tilman Ruff AM.

“The minimum position would be to demand these issues be addressed prior to ratification. The Committee report at least insists that they certainly must be prior to any sale. Even this weakened report clearly shows that the Abbott government has no mandate for uranium sales to India”.

“Further, the Committee acknowledges this Agreement could breach Australia’s obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty to refrain from supplying fissionable material to countries not under full scope safeguards, which includes India. This alone means it should not be signed.”

War has broken out between India and Pakistan three times since WWII, and they have mobilized up to a million troops during further periods of tension. Pakistan is likely to use nuclear weapons early in a major war with India – a real and present danger. Less than half the Indian and Pakistani nuclear arsenals targeted on cities would produce enough smoke to cool and darken the earth, decimating agriculture worldwide and risking two billion deaths from starvation. “Exporting uranium to India would increase these dangers”, said A/Prof Ruff, “undermining the security of Indians and Australians.”

Former Prime Minister and ICAN Patron, the late Malcolm Fraser, described exporting uranium to India as “wrong, dead wrong.”

“This Agreement makes a mockery of Australia’s safeguards regime, and undermines the NPT”, said Gem Romuld. “If Prime Minister Abbott pushes ahead with this plan he will have failed this key test of commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.”

ICAN Australia’s submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of India on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy can be viewed online: http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/JSCT-Submission-ICAN-Australia.pdf